Vail Daily column: Vail seeks answers for worker housing
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association Newsletter. The association keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the Vail community. The electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at http://www.vail homeowners.com.
Vail affordable housing: The town of Vail, some believe, has set an unrealistic goal of providing 30 percent of its work force housing needs within the existing town limits. There are few, if any, sites within its existing boundaries to add the number of housing units planners say that are needed. There is little discussion about the future needs of an expanding cohort of retirement-aged local workers who already occupy an increasing proportion of affordable housing.
The town has limited ability to finance large-scale development, even if there were ample land for development within the existing municipal boundaries. The town has regulations that require private developers to fund affordable housing when commercial projects are built, but the pace of higher density development has slowed.
At the same time, the pace of tourism has increased, creating a higher demand for work force rental and owner occupied housing. If the town were to pursue a strategy of increasing density in the East and West Vail residential neighborhoods, then it would likely hasten the departure of local residents who would want to take advantage of the financial gains and leave town. The community is feeling growth pressure as an increasing number of Americans are moving to rural recreational counties throughout the Rocky Mountain West. Vail, is also experiencing growth stresses from an influx of Latin American tourism and property investment. Eagle County, state demographers say, is now the seventh-fastest growing county in Colorado. The high cost of workforce housing may be a primary factor in slowing job growth, which is a major component of the estimated 41,000 population increase projected for the next 25 years.
What are some of the options? There is a growing awareness that the town may have to acquire land beyond its present boundaries to build more rental and permanent resident housing for working and retired employees. There are large neighborhood-sized state and federal owned sites in the area of Dowd Junction that could be turned to this purpose and be annexed into the town of Vail. Each is fraught with complications, the least of which is other jurisdictions may well covet these sites for their own purposes. Even if Vail were to prevail in acquiring these sites, the question of finding the millions of dollars to develop hundreds of housing units is daunting. It is doubtful that it can be accomplished without, at some point, voter approval.
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